dragon looms in the tower at entrance to the
Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, California.
Calif. ó The Legoland Hotel, which opened April 5, got
plenty of little things wrong in its first weeks. But its
designers got one thing enormously right, and that will
make this place a screaming success: kid-centricity.
dragon is made out of Legos!" my daughter, Grace, who
is about to turn 9, said as we approached the hotel
entrance a week after the opening.
the lobby, Grace; my wife, Mary Frances; and I found a
faux fountain, a play pit full of little plastic bricks
and dozens of deeply absorbed children who were
collaborating on a rainbow-hued monolith, constructing
pretend weapons, hollering, whispering, running, jumping
and dragging their parents from one discovery to the next.
Legos!" Grace announced as she inspected the
waterless fountain. "And they make a river! And
flowers. Lego flowers, Daddy! And Daddy! Did you realize
the bicycle wheels are magnifying glasses? And they zoom
in on the little people on the wall!"
they did. We got our room keys (roughly $230 a night plus
tax) and headed upstairs. Iím not going to tell you what
Grace discovered near the elevator, but it was clever, it
won her over, and afterward, I heard one boy say to his
mom: "I need an electronic whoopee cushion."
will I tell you what happens in the elevator, except that
one father gave a stern order as the doors closed:
"Kids in the middle. So they can dance."
will tell you that the hotel has 250 rooms; two
restaurants; a long, shallow pool; and an admirably small
gift shop. Itís three stories. And from its rear patio
ó where you can find another Lego dragon, speaking
demurely and passing gas in a bathtub ó itís about 50
paces to the front gate of the Legoland theme park.
are typically $149 (standard room, winter weekdays) to
$309 (premium room, summer weekends), with an annual
passholdersí discount of 15 percent (or 25 percent for
the next month or so). Each floor has a room theme:
Kingdom on the ground floor, Pirate on the second and
Adventure on the third, where we were. Think
Egyptian-looking ruins and golden tombs. We let Grace open
bunk beds and a monkey!" she yelled, tiptoeing
forward. "And a parrot in the corner. And a beetle.
And thereís a butterfly over there. And ó oh, a
the Bible was standard issue from the Gideons, right in
the drawer where youíd expect it. But Gís sense of
wonder was now in overdrive. Legolandís creative people
have spent so many hours thinking like kids that our visitís
success was virtually assured within 20 minutes of
room (310 square feet and up) has an area where up to
three kids can sleep: two bunk-bed berths and a trundle
bed. Thereís also a kidsí safe (with toy treasures
waiting inside), a kidsí TV and a bathroom separating
the kidsí area from the grown-upsí queen bed and TV.
In the bathroom thereís an optional little toilet seat
for little bottoms and a stool to sit or stand on. In the
front door, about 18 inches below the grown-upsí
peephole, is a kidsí peephole.
hotel guests get early access to the theme park and a few
hundred Lego pieces to play with (and leave behind). At
least eight Lego models are incorporated into each roomís
design. Guests in premium rooms get extra thematic
in the Bricks Family Restaurant, thereís a kidsí
buffet table, about 18 inches shorter than the adult
version. In the Skyline Cafe, our waitress dropped to one
knee so she could take Graceís order face-to-face rather
than looking down.
nightly in the lobby, Legoland entertainers declare
winners of the dayís building contest. On the night we
arrived, she-pirate Captain Calypso joined he-explorer
Cobra Jones (so their name tags said) to josh with kids
and review the competing Lego models.
property is so devoted to kids that the Legoland people
will face challenges other hoteliers wonít. How loud
should the whoopee cushion be? How much lobby yelling,
running, plastic-brick-sword-brandishing and
plastic-brick-machine-gun-firing is too much? (The hotel
did have an ample number of representatives circulating to
maintain some order.)
things that went wrong: In the morning, our alarm sounded
at 4:15. In the evening ó a cool one ó the patio
heaters werenít working. The clues to the kidsí safe
were fouled up. About 8 p.m., my spies found that four
stalls in the lobby ladiesí room were out of toilet
shrugged it all off. Even when the Skyline Cafeís
macaroni-and-cheese dinner arrived needing twice as much
macaroni and half as much cheese (and without the promised
fruit on the side), we cut the kitchen some slack and
shared our food. (My steak and Mary Francesí flatbread
pizza were very good.)
bet most of these bugs will be banished before another
month is over. I do, however, wish the hotel would drop
the mandatory resort fee and just add $20 to the room
rates. I know lots of hotels tack on those fees to make
their rates look lower in Web searches, but itís
also wish Bricks would shave a few bucks off its buffet
breakfast price of $23 for adults. Thatís steep,
especially when youíre not offering an a la carte
this is quibbling. The Legoland Hotel is a great, big box
of wonder and fun. In my first eight waking hours at the
hotel, I didnít see a single kid turn to an electronic
device for amusement. I saw scores of kids and parents
sharing discoveries and making things together. I also saw
lots of easy interaction among families. Itís like a rec-center
playground in a ritzy neighborhood ó but you spend the
Hotel, 1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, Calif.; (760) 918-5346,